RED DEVILS LADIES MAKE IT TO GRAND FINAL

Salford Red Devils 24  Hull KR 4                  Match Report

In less than twelve months from their formation, the Salford Red Devils ladies side have, sensationally, secured a place in the Championship Grand Final, at Odsal Stadium, home of the Bradford Bulls, this coming Sunday afternoon, in what will be a Double Header with the League 1 Grand Final, and in so doing have put themselves in line for the opportunity to take the Championship Treble, consisting of League Cup, League Leaders’ Trophy (both already in the bag), and Grand Final Champions.

With it, of course, goes promotion to Super League 2, which has been their objective throughout the season, and they could not have wished for a tougher match to prepare themselves for Sunday’s contest with Oulton – the one and only team to have taken points from the Red Devils all season – than this home semi-final against Hull KR.

From a team languishing in the bottom pair of the Championship table, and the side against whom Salford had twice ratcheted up over forty points, the Humbersiders had come with a sudden late rush to take fourth spot and thus earned the right to travel to the A J Bell to contest the one place available for the winners.

The side which turned out on Sunday afternoon, however, bore little resemblance to that which had been so heavily beaten, back in mid-July, in the Double Header prior to the men’s fixture with Catalans, resulting from what must have been an really intensive and successful recruitment drive, for which they deserve great credit.

From their sheer size alone, it was obvious that this was going to be an extremely tight, and keenly fought, encounter, with no second chances for the vanquished, and so it proved to be, with the visitors fired up to extract revenge for their pummellings in the league fixtures, and physicality being the means by which they intended to accomplish this.

It certainly appeared to take the home side by surprise, and they were almost immediately put on the back foot through the loss of fullback, Luci McKeown, from injury in one of the first tackles of the game.  That was to set the tenor for the rest of the game, and in the weeks and months to come this game will be remembered more for the number of lengthy stoppages, owing to injuries to players from both sides, than for anything else.

It was the visitors though who sustained the majority of these, but those to the Salford players were possibly the more serious, with Kayleigh Bradshaw having to be taken to hospital by ambulance with a bad knee injury, which will undoubtedly rule her out of the final on Sunday, alongside a number of others, who were forced to retire and take no further part in the action.

It took the Yorkshire side only a few minutes to take control of the game, with an abundance of possession and good field position, which saw their hosts securely penned in their own quarter for well over twenty minutes, and it was in the tenth minute that they opened the scoring with a try in the right-hand corner, from an end-of-set, cross-field kick from the left.

At the time, it looked to be only a matter of time before their four-point lead would be increased, but that was the crucial thing; despite continuing to dominate as they did, they were prevented from making any additions to the scoreboard, close as they came to doing so.

It was the Red Devils’ last ditch, desperate, but thoroughly effective goal line defence, which so thwarted them, and, as each scoring opportunity came to naught, they began to lose a little confidence.  Moreover, the Reds stepped up their own performance in possession, and slowly, at first, a swing in momentum began to emerge, albeit merely redressing to some extent the imbalance of that lengthy first period.

When the swing in dominance eventually did come, however, it came quite suddenly.  A Salford penalty for a Robins’ off-side at a play-the-ball in the 31st minute, led to their first clean break from Sade Rihari, which gave them their first opportunity to attack the Hull line.  It was then an individual run by Alex Simpson, now reverted to fullback, which saw her weave cross-field around several defenders until she ran out of anyone else to beat, crossed the try line and then ran back towards the posts to score between them.  Demi Jones’s conversion put them in front for the first time on 33 mins.

Four tackles on from the restart, and an incredible fifty metre break by dummy-half, Brogan Evans saw her dart through the line and then outpace every pursuing defender to score between the posts, and Jones’s conversion had then doubled the score, all within a mere three minutes.

One can only imagine how demoralising the visitors must have found this turn of events, while for the Salford players, they visibly rose to the opportunity, especially at the resumption for the second half, when they literally camped out in the Robins’ twenty metre area, adding their second sucker punch by means of Lauren Ellison’s 51st minute interception try, which took everyone, possibly even herself,  by surprise, but grounding as she did between the uprights, brought the score, with Jones’s conversion, to 18-4.

Things were looking considerably more comfortable from then on, and Louise Fellingham took the game completely beyond the opposition, seven minutes later, when the ball was moved along the line to the right and she cut through the line to score.  Jones, with her most challenging kick of the afternoon was equal to the task, and incredibly, successfully kicked her fourteenth, consecutive, kick-at-goal, over recent weeks.

It was not in the goalkicking duties alone that she was outstanding, for both she and halfback partner Fellingham had contributed so much to the victory throughout.  The latter had been involved in several crucial try-saving tackles, and had taken the ball up to the line on numerous occasions, before feeding it to her supporting teammates.

Jones had shown some quite remarkable touches, not least trapping an awkwardly bouncing ball from a kick-off, soccer-style, to secure possession for the Reds.  As always, she showed a canny eye for the right person in the line to pass to, and her end-of-set kicks had the opposition constantly rattled in having to deal with them.  Little wonder, therefore, that the pair were named jointly as Players of the Match.  Helena Walker, in the second row, meanwhile, had clearly had her best game of the season, and she too, along with so many others had contributed much to the victory..

So, it is onward to Bradford, this weekend, but with the job thus far, only half done.  Much depends not only on their performances, on Sunday afternoon, but also the efforts of the backroom staff to enable as many of the injured as possible to take the field on the day.  Good Luck to them all.  The deserve efery success, so let us just hope they get it!

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Brogan Evans, Megan Condliffe, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Hannah Wicks, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Eponine Fletcher, Kayleigh Bradshaw

Acknowledgement

Sean Monks Omaga Photography, for above photograph showing Victoria Kini making a hit-up, supported, from left to right, by Brogan Evans, Louise Fellingham, and Sade Rihari

RED DEVILS RETAKE TOP SPOT

Salford Red Devils 20 Oulton 10                       Match Report

The eagerly awaited second versus first encounter, between Salford Red Devils’,  and Oulton’s, ladies’ teams, lived up to every expectation when the two met in last Saturday’s Double Header, providing the considerable number of spectators with an enthralling contest, which kept everyone rivetted, right through to the final whistle.

It was the visitors who were currently occupying top spot, as a consequence of their victory over the Red Devils back in April, when a number of Salford players had been unavailable, and the side had been further depleted by a number of injuries sustained during the course of the game.  Both teams had then gone undefeated, with Oulton’s solitary point having been dropped in an away fixture with Warrington.

Just as in that first match, the Yorkshire side got off to an exceptionally good start, opening the scoring on 45 seconds, which was not dissimilar to that earlier game. Their try came as a result of the Reds’ failure to take the ball from the kick-off, which, as a result, gave Oulton possession close to the Salford line, and they found a gap in the defence to go through, between the posts, for a converted score on only the second tackle of the game.

Even though they had gone on to win the previous match, they had, to a certain extent, been unable to sustain the surprising speed and dominance of the first five minutes, and so it proved to be the case once more with the Red Devils gradually forcing their way into the arm-wrestle, thanks to the stirring efforts of their forwards.

Throughout the match, this was certainly no place for the faint-hearted, with no quarter being asked nor given, and, on the bone-hard pitch, injuries were plentiful, with interchanges then being required at frequent intervals.

It took Salford just six minutes to open their account but when the try came it was well executed.  A rare Oulton error, with their fumbling the ball from a Salford end-of-set kick, gave the Red Devils possession forty metres out.  The ball was moved to the left, and a strong run from centre, Victoria Kini, sucked defenders towards her leaving space out wide for the rapidly improving, Katie Garry, who struck down the touchline in stylish manner to score in the corner.

The visitors, nevertheless, were able to hold on to their two-point lead right up to the 25th minute mark, when yet more slick handling sent the ball along, this time, to the right wing, where Lauren Ellison, took advantage of the space, which the cleverly timed passes had afforded her, to score out wide.

The tightness and toughness of the contest was unrelenting, and it was ten minutes into the second half before further points were accrued, once again by Salford.  On the back of a penalty, first Sade Rihari, and then Alex Simpson, made the running before the ball was passed to the left, and Kayleigh Bradshaw straightened up to score, with Demi Jones’s conversion taking the score to 14-6

There was no way that the Oulton outfit were not going to fight to the final whistle, and the set-by-set arm-wrestle continued, with the visitors briefly gaining superiority as a result of the Red Devils’ failing to complete several of their sets. So, when the visitors found a gap on their right-hand edge, on 65 mins, they were able to cut through and score, reducing their arears to four points only

Thankfully, the Red Devils were equal to the task.  They completely eradicated their handling errors, thereafter,  leaving their magnificent forwards to impose their dominance, keeping possession secure, and making hard yardage up field, thereby running down the clock.

It was less than five minutes from time when one such pack member, Casey Naylor, in similar vein to the visitors’ opener, forced her way over, despite the attention of at least three opponents, and grounded the ball to the right of the posts.  Another Salford kick had been fumbled by a tiring defender, and Rihari made the necessary progress up field to lay the platform.

The euphoria, with which this was greeted was a joy to behold, and evidence to all and sundry of how much the victory meant to the players, and just how hard the physical battle to achieve it had been.

There now remains just one last fixture, away at Stanningley, which the Reds will have to win in order to remain safely where they find themselves at the moment – at the top of the league.  Doing so will ensure pole position in the forthcoming top four play-offs, which commence on the weekend, 24/5th September.  Home advantage, in at least the first of these, will be most beneficial, with the likelihood of yet one further contest against the robust formation that is Oulton, being their opponents in the Final.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Victoria Kini, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Tamzin Corcoran, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Darcey Price, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Kayleigh Bradshaw

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

Photograph: Steve McCormick

RED DEVILS COMPLETE THEIR SECOND DOUBLE OVER SIDES FROM HULL

Salford Red Devils 36  Hull FC 4                   Match Report

Salford Red Devils kept up their pressure for the number one place at the top of the Championship League table, with their completing their second ‘double’ of the season over Humberside opposition, with this rather harder fought return encounter with the side from West Hull.

A recruiting drive of some significance was responsible for the considerable strengthening of the Hull team for Thursday’s Double Header opener, compared with the one which had turned out against the Reds, back in mid-June.  Among those who had been acquired were two French players, who paired up on the left wing to form a strong attacking force, whenever the ball found its way into their hands.

Nevertheless, it was less than five minutes into the game when the home side opened their account as a result of a break from centre, Sade Rihari, supported by fullback, Alex Simpson, who went over between the posts with Demi Jones slotting over the goal.

Those who might have thought that this would herald an ever-increasing number of such scores were to be somewhat surprised to find that it took almost twenty minutes of hard graft in the ensuing arm-wrestle, before the Reds were able to improve on this.  Twenty-two minutes in, however, an extremely strong run by substitute forward, Casy Naylor, set them up for the ball to be swung from left towards the right until Simpson cut through the defensive line, leaving Jones again to complete the doubling of their score.

Four minutes later the Red Devils backed this up with what was undoubtedly the try of the match.  Support play of the highest order saw the ball go through several pairs of hands before being sent out to left winger, Kate Garry, who had already caught the eye with some creditable attacking touches, taking her first scoring opportunity well, to go got over in the corner, thereby celebrating what coincidentally happened to be her birthday.

The resultant score line of 16-0, was then defended by the Reds right through to the half time interval, the resumption from which saw Abi Collins show a remarkable turn of speed for a prop, from Jones’s pass, to extend their lead, on 45 mins, to 22-0, with the addition of Jones’s conversion.

The tightness of the contest was underlined, once more, with a further ten-minute period with the two sides battling for supremacy, but this time it was the visitors who broke the deadlock.  A set-restart was awarded to them, and they used the extra tackles to notch their try, too far out for it to be converted.

It was to be all Salford from this point on, however, with Taz Corcoran crossing twice in the left corner, in almost identical spots, on 65th and 80th minutes, and although neither was converted, the fact that Jones’s first attempt hit the crossbar from so far out, served to underline the considerable progress she has made with her kicking during the season.

Sandwiched in between those two scores came the remaining Jones-converted try, on 69 mins.  The ball was again moved along the line towards the right, and when it came to Rihari she cleverly stepped inside her opposite number to ground the ball close to the right upright.

So the Salford players gained a further couple of points to sustain their battle of attrition with Oulton for prime league position.  The two sides will face each other at the A J Bell, next weekend for what would probably be regarded as a ‘four-pointer’, even though, of course, the winner will only come away with two.  Certainly, this latest, tougher than expected, encounter should stand them in good stead for that, and with only one further league game thereafter (for Salford away at Stanningley) the league placings might even have been decided before then.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Riahari, Brogan Evans, Kate Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Abi Collins Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Darcey Price, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Hannah Wicks, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Casey Naylor, Laura Bent, Gabrielle Chaplin

ACKNOWLDGEMENT

Steve McCormick, for above photograph showing Demi Jones’s fine kicking style

SALFORD’S WOMEN MAKE IT FOUR WINS IN A ROW

Hull KR 4  Salford 42                        Match Report

It does not seem to matter to whom you speak, pretty well any Super League player will attest to the difficulty of going to Hull KR and coming away with a win.  The two and a half hour journey, in itself, can be something of an endurance to be faced ahead of the game, and is certainly long enough for players to have stiffened up and be feeling slightly under par for the game.

That, however, certainly does not seem to have been the case, last Saturday, when Salford’s women’s team visited East Hull.  The team as a whole has been turning heads for the past few weeks, having been undefeated in all of their league games, winners in two out of their three nine-aside matches, and last week progressing to the semi-final of the League Cup.

One or two rather more sceptical of observers, given the reputation of the Sewell Group Craven Park Stadium, as being of a quite intimidating nature, with spectators close enough to the pitch to make their feelings felt to players and match officials alike, might well have been forgiven for expecting the team to struggle far more than in any other match so far.

So for them to take all of that in their stride, and then come out with a thirty-eight point winning margin, is quite incredible, and worthy of every word of praise that can be lavished upon them.  They were somewhat concerned that they made a slow start, with their being kept scoreless for fifteen minutes, but, once loose forward, Meg Condliffe, had fired them up with a tremendous hit on one of their opponents, there was no holding them, with points galore flowing freely, from that point onwards.

Two players, Steph Gray and Luci McKeown, scored hat-tricks, which, while justifiably being of great personal satisfaction to each of them, contributed greatly to the sides overall total.   Skipper, Louise Fellingham, also weighed in with a try, as did new recruit, Serina Tamou, who celebrated her arrival at the club by contributing to their biggest score of the season, so far.

There were five successful conversions, two of which came while Demi Jones was on field to take them, and McKeown proving to be an able deputy slotting over the remaining three.

A fifteen minute period towards the end of the first half virtually brought the game, as a contest, to its conclusion, with three stand out scores to relish.  The first of these came after a Salford interception enabled them to progress upfield, and Tamou showed the strength and power she would bring to the side with a ten metre charge at the home team’s line which no-one was going to stop.

Next name on the scorer’s list was McKeown, who fielded an end-of-set kick on her own twenty metre line, and then promptly went no less than eighty metres down the left flank for her first of the afternoon.  Almost unbelievably, that run heralded not just her own try but an immediate, subsequent one.

Direct from the restart, the ball was received by Fellingham, who set up Gray with a clear run to the line, along the touchline, for what was her second of the afternoon, having opened the team’s account a little earlier.  Coming, as it did, so immediately upon McKeown’s must have surely demoralised the opposing players who, nevertheless, did cross for their own try shortly afterwards.

Having been provider for one score, Fellingham was able to benefit herself from a second-half, clean break, which she backed up, and then, once in possession, ran a clever line to cross for a try of  her own.

Tries only come, however, as a result of tremendous hard work from other players throughout the squad, and it would be most fitting, after such a tremendous victory, to pay due respect to those who have the task of making the hard metres up the field, who take the hard knocks in contact, and who wear down their opponents, and themselves, with their no-stop tackling, when on defence.  Without their efforts, week in, week out, we would never be in a position to score tries, let alone bag eight in one match.

Attention now turns to this coming Sunday, when, once again, the team set off on their travels, this time on the much shorter journey into Yorkshire, to take on Oulton, in a rearranged fixture from the first weekend of the season.  The team now appears to have a winning formula for every game.  All they need to do is to stick with that through thick and thin for their rest of the season, and they can now always be confident that they can come through it with some success, at the end.

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Steph Gray, Viki Kini, Eponine Fletcher, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Darcey Price, Tamzin Corcoran Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Sarina Tamou, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Laura Bent, Katie Garry, Casey Naylor, Abi Collins, Helena Walker, Hanna Wicks

SALFORD WOMEN SPRING SURPRISES IN NINES TOURNAMENT

For those of us who remember the highly popular Sevens Tournaments of the 1970s, a version of rugby at which Salford used to excel, our over-riding memory was one of sheer speed, and rather less in terms of rugby skills, as pacey individuals simply ran amok in the acres of space at their disposal.  The modern version of nine-aside is an attempt to redress the balance, so with a total of eight players (four from each side) missing, there is now much more rugby evident, while still ample opportunity for potential match-winners to have their field day.

For Salford women’s side, with only one competitive game under their belt, the change to a completely different and novel style of play was always going to require an extremely steep learning curve to be able to cope, let alone come close to winning a match.  Even the scoring was unfamiliar, with a try between the posts, only, earning five points plus the conversions. Restarts after a score were by the scoring team dropping out to the team which had conceded.

So, probably, in light of all that, the other three fully experienced teams in Group D will all, undoubtedly, have been relishing an easy ride against the newcomers to the comp.  If that were the case, they will have had one almighty shock, when they came up against the Red Devils

OULTON

Salford v Oulton was, in fact, the opening match of the afternoon, so there was to be no opportunity to observe another fixture in order to acquaint themselves with what to expect ahead of their game, only the opening onslaught from the Yorkshire players who quickly rattled up an eight-point lead.

Desperate times require desperate measures, so, step forward, Salford fullback, Luci McKeown, who received the ball just inside the Red Devils’ half of the field, on the third tackle of the set.  Far from ensuring the completion of the set as the main priority, she happened to notice that Oulton’s fullback was out of position, so put in a lengthy kick down field chased after it, and, having won the race, she then showed the skills of a soccer player before touching down over the line and adding the conversion.

Oulton replied almost immediately with a converted try, but shortly before half time, winger, Alex Simpson was put clear down the left flank to score under the posts, which with the extra point this earned, plus McKeown’s conversion brought the score at the turnaround, to 13-14.

Oulton, it was again, who opened the scoring to the second half, taking the score to 13-21, but from that point the Red Devils took total command.  First, they set up a try for right winger, Lauren Ellison, whose try brought Salford to within four points, at 17-21, and they got in front for the first time 24-21, following an interception by Simpson, and the final score coming from Abbi Collins, 31-21

CASTLEFORD

Despite their Super League status, Castleford turned out to be wooden spoonists at the end of the afternoon, and Salford’s 26-4 victory contributed to this.  A quite remarkable pass from McKeown, whilst being tackled, to Kayleigh Bradshaw got Simpson away and under the posts, for their first seven points of the match.  Then, lo and behold, McKeown replicated her try from the previous match, with the only variation being that she caught the kick on the bounce, to score under the posts to bring the score to 14-0

Castleford’s solitary score came just before half time, when the effort from all three, nine-minute periods, compiled to catch up on the Red Devils, but the second half was one way traffic, starting with a right to left passing move along the line to Simpson, once again, who crossed in the corner. 18-4

Hooker, Taz Corcoran, then caught out the defence, with a dart to the blind side for Ellison to score in the right corner to move the score on to 22-4.  Finally, prop, Demi Jones, got in on the act, with a most incredible ball steal to gain possession, for the last try of the game.

HUDDERSFIELD

It was only fitting that the final match was between the two best, and thus far undefeated, sides in this Group.  And how did this culminating match open?  Why, with a kick down the field by McKeown, and yet again a try under the posts.  Self-converted, of course.  Huddersfield were behind for the first time all afternoon.

Sadly, that was as good as it got for Salford, in this encounter.  Huddersfield had been clearly the team of the Group throughout the afternoon, winning both their previous matches, at a canter, and when, in the heat of the occasion, the Salford players lost some of their composure and started making handling errors, the Yorkshire side took advantage of each one.

The half time score of 7-10, quickly rose to 7-20, upon the resumption, until Ellison picked up a loose ball and showed a clean pair of heels over seventy metres, hotly pursued, to the posts.  There was still sufficient time, though, for Huddersfield to underline their superiority to bring up a final score of 14-24.

So, Huddersfield will progress as Group D’s representatives in the Final stage of the competition, at the A J Bell in a few weeks’ time, and congratulations to them in so doing.  A special concluding word, however, for all the Salford players who, so magnificently, represented the club, over the course of the afternoon.

There would have been no shame in their having lost all their matches, being so new to rugby league, let alone the nine-aside variation of it, against such experienced opponents.  To have won two of them, and to have kept to within ten points of the overall winners was incredible, and they all deserve every accolade of praise they receive.

They can only learn from today’s venture, and will get even better as a result.  They fully deserve the utmost of support, and would undoubtedly welcome your attendance at some of their home games, starting, this weekend against Dewsbury, on Sunday afternoon, at the home of Salford Roosters.

SALFORD SQUAD:

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Eponine Fletcher, Alex Simpson, Louise Fellingham, Taz Corcoran, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Gabby Chaplin, Abbi Collins, Demi Jones

FINAL POSITIONS GROUP D:

  1. Huddersfield
  2. Salford
  3. Oulton
  4. Castleford

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